Friday, October 8th, 2010
“When I graduated from school 23 years ago, I moved to the D.C. area because it presented a new land of opportunity for me. I was a computer guy and started my career working on IT and marketing here. About eight years ago, I found myself working for a company that sold vaporware, which is a term for something that may look good on paper, but doesn’t exist in the market yet. It was hard to sell something that I didn’t really feel good about.
“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, and decided that I wanted to be involved in something that I really cared about. I left my job and bought a bakery and bagel shop in Alexandria that is now called Capital Bagel Bakery. Part of the thought process for me was asking myself, what do I like doing in life, and if I fail miserably trying to do it, what have I lost. I like rolling up my sleeves and using my hands, and it was a distressed business, so the risk was not that significant.
“The bagel shop was a great opportunity, but a lot of work. We ran the place 24 hours a day, and I was there all of the time. When we had kids, I realized that if I wanted to be a part of their lives, I needed something that was less time consuming. When you own a business, you can hire good people, but trying to get away is very difficult. Anyone who has owned a business will know what I’m saying. In 2005, I decided that I wanted to spend more time at home with my family and I sold the place. For a first business venture, it worked out pretty well and helped me understand how to run a business and how to interact with customers on a daily business.
“While I was at the bagel shop, I was introduced to Swing’s coffee. I was really impressed by their product and I made them our coffee distributor. Enjoying a nice cup of coffee has always been a constant for me. I remember having my first cup of coffee before my first exam in college. I nearly failed because I was so wired. Now, I drink multiple cups a day and have found that I am much more aware of what makes a good cup of coffee. As I was thinking about what to do after the bagel shop, an opportunity came up to buy Swing’s.
“This was a company that had been family owned and operated in D.C. for over 90 years. The company was founded in 1916 by Michael Edward Swing and run by him and his son, Edward Swing. In the mid-50′s, Patricia Swing, who was the granddaughter of Michael, stepped in and ran the company until I took it over in 2005. When she left, she was in her late 80′s. Sadly, she recently passed away.
“When Patricia sold me the place, she requested that I maintain Swing’s legacy and not change what this place has meant to the city. Swing’s has so much history and some of the coffee blends date back to 1916. My goal is to help preserve their legacy and keep this place running for another 100 years.
“Now, people talk about Starbucks, but Swing’s was Starbucks before the idea for Starbucks was even conceived. Swing’s has always been the coffee shop for the sub-culture of coffee drinkers and for the power brokers in this town. Because of how close we are to the White House, the Old Executive Office Building, and the World Bank, this is where some of the most important people in this town start their day. Every day, I see well known government officials and White House staffers coming in to get their coffee. There was even a time when we would serve coffee in the White House, but 9/11 changed that with the security concerns. I haven’t seen the President in here yet, but I am hoping that he’ll come in soon.”
For almost 80 years, M.E. Swing Co. was located at 1013 E St NW. In 1994, it moved to 1702 G St. NW. Swing’s maintains a roasting facility at 612-D South Pickett Street in Alexandria, Virginia.